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Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Entries in Adobe After Effects (83)


What Adobe Should Do With IRIDAS SpeedGrade

SpeedGrade 2009

Earlier this month Adobe announced the purchase of “certain assets” from a German company called IRIDAS, including their SpeedGrade software color correction system.

In many ways, this is a lot like Apple’s purchase of a small company called Silicon Color, announced in October of 2007. Like Silicon Color’s Final Touch, which became Apple Color, SpeedGrade is a powerful, but oddly clunky, standalone application that does nothing but GPU-accelerated color correction. As was the case with Final Touch, SpeedGrade is not among the most popular systems for professional film DI, but its featureset is comparable to those that are, such as Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Lustre.

Apple never sold Color (once a $25,000 purchase) on its own, instead choosing to bundle it with Final Cut Studio. Similarly, Adobe seems to view IRIDAS’s color correction technology as a value-add to its existing suite of video products. From the blog of Adobe’s Todd Kopriva:

Not only have we listened to your requests for better, faster, and more powerful color grading and finishing tools—but we’ve also looked ahead to the future needs of professional video, including HDR (high dynamic range) and raw video workflows.

Adobe, being a publicly-traded company, doesn’t talk openly about its product plans, but one could imagine possible futures for SpeedGrade under Adobe’s wing by looking at other technologies Adobe has acquired over the years. Audition, for example, was added to the video suites right away, but took many years to be truly integrated. Others, such as Curious gFx Pro, seemed to disappear entirely.

SpeedGrade’s fate at Adobe is interesting to me both as a user and a designer of color correction tools. While Magic Bullet Looks is popular because it’s powerful, unique, and fun, Colorista—especially Colorista II—has become popular for a very different reason—it fills a void. It provides professional color correction in your favorite NLE and in After Effects, apps that mysteriously lack solid, user-friendly, telecine-style color control.

When third-party software fills a notable gap in a product line, it is naturally at risk of being rendered obsolete. What happens to Colorista when the makers of its host applications finally start taking color seriously? I’ll answer that in a bit. But first, let’s get back to the two hats that I wear: “user” and “developer.”

That was sort of a trick set-up. The truth is, I only wear one hat. I’m a user. I want what’s best and easiest. The difference between me and most users is simply that when I can’t find what’s best and easiest, I become obsessed with designing it—and I have a direct line to a wonderful team of people who can help me make it. But I’m always happy to have my creations rendered obsolete by advances in technology. Magic Bullet was originally a tool for converting interlaced video to 24p. But when a team of Panasonic engineers showed me a prototype of what would become the DVX100 and asked me what features I considered “must-haves,” I said 24p before they even finished talking.

As a user, I’d be delighted to have Adobe build in class-leading utility color correction to After Effects and Premiere. As a developer, I’ll be thrilled at the challenge of continuing to build great things that you want to use, even as the shortcomings we once shored up seem to disappear. Colorista has always “competed with free,” and I enjoy that spirit of healthy competition. It’s fun for me and great for us users.

So with that complex depiction of my two-hats-that-are-really-one out of the way, here is my advice for Adobe on how to handle their new acquisition.

  • Exporting a Premiere Pro timeline into SpeedGrade is a good and natural start. My guess is that Adobe agrees, based on their recent “partnering” with Automatic Duck.

  • The biggest effort here will be some kind of translation from IRIDAS’s “unique” user experience into a human-usable interface. Seriously. You can’t know how weird this software is until you try it. It makes Color 1.0 look like Delicious Library—although it had been getting better.

  • But moving a project to a dedicated color app is simply not the way of the future for most users. Apple has the right idea by killing Color and making color correction a native property of every clip in a FCP X timeline—even if those new color controls are—how should I say this—a Colorista opportunity.

    This is important, so I’ll say it another way: Apple screwed up by making the FCP X “Color Board” less industry-standard (I mean sure, dream up a better way—but it has to actually be better), but their decision to make color controls part of the settings inherent to any clip in the timeline is spot-on.

  • It’s often desirable to move from a dedicated editing environment to a dedicated finishing app, but (again, for most projects) not to a dedicated color-with-no-other-finishing-capabilities app. So:

  • Encapsulate the SpeedGrade color correction controls into clip properties that make sense in Premiere. This should not be an “effect” any more that we should have to apply an effect to change an audio clip’s volume or stereo panning. In other words, do what Apple did in FCP X.

  • Build a workflow that allows users to begin color work in Premiere with these controls, and then fine-tune it in SpeedGrade. Very much like what Magic Bullet users are doing now with Premiere Pro and After Effects.

  • Make all of the color controls that we like in SpeedGrade work in After Effects as well. Here it’s OK to do this via effects. Give AE an NLE-style timeline and a more realtime disposition where possible. Enable AE to import both Premiere Pro projects with color settings and also SpeedGrade sessions with more advanced color adjustments.

  • Premiere becomes a place where color is ubiquitous and useful.

  • SpeedGrade becomes the place where color alone is done quickly and well.

  • After Effects becomes the place where color is only a part of the complete finishing power.

In short, it’s a three-step process:

  1. Ship it.
  2. Integrate it.
  3. Render it obsolete.

If you do that Adobe, you’ll have created the true home movie making studio for which I’ve always said you already have the ingredients.

In the meantime, I’ll be there to fill the gaps and the non-gaps alike, with filmmaking tools designed out of the day to day needs of a filmmaking nerd.

Speaking of which, Red Giant posted an update to Magic Bullet Suite today (v11.1) that includes bug fixes, Sony Vegas Pro compatibility (!), and Red Giant Link, an updater designed to make sure you don’t miss important updates hidden at the bottom of long-winded blog posts.


Dear Some (French) Nerd: Thanks!

Literally a thousand years ago* I wrote a post titled Dear some nerd: Please port the Box2D open-source physics engine to an Adobe After Effects Script. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what Motion Boutique has done with Newton, but what they’ve made looks incredibly fun and usable.

It speaks well to the usability of the After Effects plug-in that this demo (embedding disabled for some reason) makes perfect sense even if you don’t speak French.

Anyone know the release date? Price?

* Literally.


Color Correcting Food with Colorista II

My friend Pete came by with some Canon 7D (UPDATE: Oops, it’s the 5D Mark II) video and stills. We sat together for about an hour grading the video to match the stills, which had been professionally shot and processed by photographer Eric Wolfinger. We used After Effects CS5, Colorista II, and the DV Rebel Tools scripts from The DV Rebel’s Guide.

What I find interesting about this session is that it provides one answer to a common question: “Why doesn’t the video I shoot with my DSLR look as good as the stills?” Setting aside numerous technical issues, a big part of it is that stills shooters, as a rule, color correct their shots before letting the world see them.

Here’s the session:

And here’s the before/after:


BG Renderer for After Effects


This is really cool.

BG Renderer is an Adobe After Effects script by Lloyd Alvarez that allows you to keep working while your renders process in the background. It automates the process of launching aerender from the command line, leaving your interactive AE session unaffected. On todays multiprocessor and multi-core machines, even laptop, this luxurious experience comes with little performance penalty.

That, all by itself, is pretty much awesome. But wait, there’s more. The Pro version of the script allows you to set up post-render actions, such as emailing or text messaging yourself a note to announce the completed render. You can attach the log file to the email if you like.

You can also configure Growl notifications. You can then use any of several Growl-compatible iPhone apps, such as Prowl or Boxcar, to send push notifications to your phone.

If there’s anything better than continuing to work while After Effects renders in the background, it’s sitting in a café and having your phone tell you that an After Effects render is complete back at your desk.

All of this configured in a beautiful and intuitive GUI that docks in with the rest of the UI and saves with your custom workspaces. You’d think it was a native After Effects feature.

A beta version of this script kept me sane when I was onlining BRICK & STEEL. It’s difficult to describe just how quickly this little panel will become an essential part of your After Effects workflow. There are more features than what I’ve described here, many of which have dedicated video tutorials over at

The basic version is $4.99 and the Pro version is $19.99 (see update below). Does that sound expensive? Think of it as buying Lloyd a beer or two — something you’ll be dying to do after you’ve used the free trial, which offers the full Pro functionality for two weeks.

BG Renderer at

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